1954:…And Now Miguel (counting sheep induces sleep)

VERDICT: Trash!

Laurinda’s Rating: 1/5

Make a documentary. Rewrite the script into book format. Bribe the judges. Win an award. While Stage 3 may or may not have occurred, the rest is the true story of 1954’s Newbery Winner. As with the reverse process (book to movie), the end result is utter garbage. …And Now Miguel is an extremely tedious exploration of an adolescent shepherd’s life. Miguel’s family has raised sheep for several generations. Every summer, the men in the family take the sheep up into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. This year, Miguel is intent on proving that he has the skill and knowledge to move from boy to man in terms of his responsibilities. He helps clear out the irrigation canal, “brand” the ewes and lambs with identifying numbers, and sweep the floor when the shearers come. However, only the drafting of his older brother, Gabriel, gets him his coveted place on the drive up to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. While Miguel regrets his brother’s absence, and wishing to San Ysidro for an opportunity to join the men, he delights in the journey to the mountains.

The narration is excruciatingly detailed, with little emotion to carry the plot along. As in the documentary, Miguel is the narrator of the book. His language use is simple and boring, not a surprise since Miguel prefers working with sheep to attending school (and, well, he’s a 12 year old). He offers a detailed description of why a lamb being born looks like an airplane, for example. If that was a one-time occurrence, the narrative might have survived. However, this happens over and over, with everything from cleaning the irrigation ditch to the scenery Miguel traverses when skipping school to search for lost sheep. The plot is also lacking; although Miguel takes on additional tasks, the author fails to paint a strong picture of his development in anything other than work habits. Additionally, secondary characters have little individual personality. While there are a few amusing scenes involving them, the strong focus on Miguel prevents anyone else from taking even a bit of the spotlight. Heck, even the pictures are awkward line drawings. Really, there was nothing to save this book. There’s a reason it took me almost two weeks to finish it (besides my vacation and a busy work schedule). Unless you’re trying to cure insomnia, avoid this book.

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